[STOP] Wasting Money on Your Cell Phone

Category: Mobile

Your smartphone bill is probably one of the major monthly expenses in your budget. The average smartphone user spends $90 per month, while lucky iPhone owners spend about $111, according to a survey by Cowan and Co. Here are some tips for paring down that bill and keeping it under control…

How to Avoid Wasting Money on Cell Phones

First, consider getting your cellular service from a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), not directly from a big network provider like Verizon, AT&T, T-mobile, or Sprint. MVNOs buy service in bulk from these carriers; often, they pass on to customers savings of up to 50%. It’s exactly the same network, just re-branded and re-sold.

Some of the more popular MVNOs include Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Cricket Wireless, H20 Wireless, MetroPCS, Net10, Republic Wireless, Straight Talk, Ting, Tracfone and Walmart Family Plan. You can find a much longer list of MVNOs, with links to their websites at BestMVNO.com You'll need to pick one that's compatible with your phone and has a good signal where you use it most often.

Next, buy your phone with one lump sum of hard-saved cash, if you possibly can. Avoid finance charges hidden in those “easy monthly payments” advertised by phone sellers. It’s hard to determine who offers the best deal on a given phone because offers are constantly being changed and their complex terms are all different. Just shop around and compare plans and prices carefully.

Save money on your mobile phone bill

You might think your local Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile store is the best place to go when looking for a new phone. But it might be the worst. My article The Worst Place to Buy a Mobile Phone has some tips on where to find better deals when shopping for a new mobile gadget.

Don’t throw your old phone into the junk drawer when you get a new one. You’re probably not going to use it again. Instead, trade it in for cash or credit on a new phone, or sell it to a third-party phone refurbisher or broker. Gazelle and others are large trading sites that pay more money for used phones than carriers do. See my article HOWTO: Sell Your Cell Phone (or Other Gadget) Be sure to do a factory reset on your phone before selling it, to erase all personal data that you may have on it.

More Money-Saving Tips for Mobile Phones

Maybe you don't need a new phone. Every mall seems to have at least one "phone fixit" kiosk where you can get a cracked screen or a broken charging port replaced for much less than the cost of a new phone. My wife's Samsung Galaxy would no longer charge after getting wet, but the phone was otherwise functional.. I verified that the battery was okay by charging it in another phone. Even a used Galaxy S4 was more than we wanted to spend, but a guy in the mall replaced the charging port for $45 in 15 minutes. Replacing the screen will cost around $80-$100, but you can buy do-it-yourself kits for much less.

Consider a family plan even if you do not have a family, strictly speaking. Just as many cash-strapped Millennials are sharing houses, many more share cell phone service plans as “families.” Friends on family plans can save up to 60% versus buying individual service plans.

Downsizing your data plan can make a big difference in your monthly bill. Most users do not come close to using up their gigabytes. Some cell plans let you roll unused bytes into the next month’s allotment, but several large carriers do not. Republic Wirelesss gives you cash credits for any unused bytes. Google's Project Fi also rolls over your unused data from one month to the next, and has some nifty features that might be of interest.

Shop around for the extras. Power cables, batteries, protective cases, earbuds, and other accessories should be bought at Walmart or online, never in a dedicated brick-and-mortar store operated by your mobile carrier.. Prices there are grossly inflated.

And finally, don't buy device insurance. I just wrote about the scam of electronics insurance. Short story: you don’t need device insurance, and nobody is selling a good plan.

What’s your favorite way to save money on phones every month, or when buying or selling a phone? Share this article with friends, and then post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "[STOP] Wasting Money on Your Cell Phone"

(See all 21 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

joe porter
06 Jun 2016

do all carriers charge 40 a month to use a network verizon does 40 for phone 40 for network


Posted by:

TJ
06 Jun 2016

Normally I would agree about the waste of an insurance plan, but after having my LG G4 suffer from a boot loop issue that LG admitted was a manufacturer defect, & then having them jerk me around about fixing it, & also not being able to find a replacement motherboard available for sale anywhere, an insurance claim has become my last resort. And in spite of the outrageous amount for the deductible, it's still less than I can find anywhere else to pay for even a used phone of the same model. Just my two cents. ;)


Posted by:

HARRY DALTON
06 Jun 2016

THANKS for this info , I read every one you send, and i use Tracfone it works great and its is the cheapest i have found so far. You buy minits and get 90 days every time you buy,


Posted by:

Nestor Bonilla
06 Jun 2016


You do a good service. You provide ,honest and free advice. Keep up the great work, you're a great American.


Posted by:

Joe
06 Jun 2016

I switched my service from a grandfathered unlimited-data plan at AT&T to PureTalk USA and have never looked back. I was paying AT&T ~$80/month for a plan that didn't even include text messages, and now I pay ~$26/month. I have about the same talk minutes and texting included (3 texts = 1 minute). I looked at my last year of AT&T bills to find my average data usage and picked a PureTalk plan that covered my needs. I'm on the same network as before, paying 1/3 as much. Winning! PureTalk was easy to activate and their customer service has been great.


Posted by:

Wolf
06 Jun 2016

Just last week I came to the conclusion that Tracfone would be the most economical for me. They and their affiliated Net10 and Straight Talk use all of the major carriers, but you can't directly choose whether you get your service through ATT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon. In my case, I knew I needed Verizon for service at an old family home that I visit frequently, but I would not get Verizon if I ordered based on my home zip code. This website told me how to figure out which network different Tracfone phones will use to ensure I ended up with a Verizon phone:

http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2011/12/how-to-get-tracfone-net10-or-straight.html


Posted by:

David Quinn
06 Jun 2016

A good read with something to think about. Thank you.


Posted by:

Jo L. Will
06 Jun 2016

I've been with ringplus.net for four months now, using my iphone 5S. They're a MVNO of the Sprint network. I'm on their "Seashore" plan:3750 min, 3750 texts, 4.5 GB/mo, all for FREE. Bought another iphone 5S for my wife on Ebay for $107 (Sprint has them today for $100, free shipping). Her plan is 800/800/800mb/mo, not just free, but they add $5 to her account each month, up to a $150. max, and free tethering. We each use maybe 5% of our allottment.


Posted by:

Bernie Crowley
06 Jun 2016

I have all the services I need on my home phone and do not want to carry on a conversation at the grocery store, concert, etc. I have a pre-paid Verizon flip phone that stays in the car in case of emergencies. It's an old plan, not currently offered for many years.
$30.00 for three months of service. We probably make 2 calls a week lasting a total of 10 minutes.
What else do we really need?


Posted by:

Ellis
06 Jun 2016

My contacts and mp3s are backed up for me regularly by Verizon. If I switch to an MVNO and continue using my existing phone (Samsung S3) can my contacts and mp3s be moved (either semi-automatically or automatically) from Verizon to the MVNO?


Posted by:

Linda
06 Jun 2016

First of all, just want to say that I agree 100% with the comments left by Nestor Bonilla. Thanks so much for all you do,Bob. I read your news letter every day and have recommended it to all my friends. You do a fabulous job!

Re cutting down mobile phone expenses: if it suits your lifestyle and how you use your mobile phone, consider a Pay as You Go plan instead of a monthly plan.

I bought my phone outright (a Nokia Lumia 520 Windows smartphone) almost 3 years ago for $99, and I haven't had a single problem with it. I live in Canada, so don't know who provides Pay/Go plans in the U.S., but I top up my Canadian Pay/Go account with Rogers for $100 once a year. Yes, you read that right. I spend only $100 PER YEAR on mobile phone fees. Works great for me and how I use my phone.


Posted by:

Buffet
07 Jun 2016

I spend 45.00/month for unlimited everything!
To spend over a hundred dollars a month one must either be independently wealthy - or a lunatic.


Posted by:

Larry
07 Jun 2016

I switched from Verizon to Straight Talk several years ago. First ST phone was on Verizon network and was great for my area. When that phone started having issues I purchased another cheap flip phone (my work place is not a good environment for an expensive smart phone!) only to discover it ran on AT&T's network, which is spotty where I live. Be sure to check and get something that works in your area!


Posted by:

Lee Hamilton
07 Jun 2016

Not a heavy user so Page plus, especially their $80 plan 4000 minutes for up to a year. If you use it up just add another $80. If you don't use it up just add another $10 for 4 more months. It lasts about 8 to 10 months for one phone. Two more usually need one or two $10 refills before needing a $80


Posted by:

Matthew
07 Jun 2016

Excellent tips Bob, thank you. I found a great site for Australian Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO)by doing a Google search. I've successfully repaired a Samsung Galaxy Note camera lens with a $5 kit & I recommend trying yourself. Watch some YouTube vids first :D


Posted by:

GasparRueben
07 Jun 2016

Consumer Cellular is much less expensive than Verizon. However, it's coverage is weaker. With my Verizon phone it would always work in a large building, like a grocery store. The Consumer Cellular phone *never* works inside a store like that. It wouldn't even ring inside my PT's office today. I'm frustrated by the lack of range of the signal, even though I'm glad to be saving money. Am contemplating going back to Verizon.


Posted by:

Tracy
07 Jun 2016

A note on selling your old phones.
Even though a master reset may be done on the phone being sold, it is still possible for a hacker looking to mine personal information (ie;bank, credit card, ect.) from smartphones.
The best thing is to destroy the phone, or save as a backup.


Posted by:

HowardL
30 Dec 2016

I’m a work-at-home introvert who mainly uses a cellphone to ask my wife if she wants a pizza. The exception is that for about a month I escape the winter and need a cellphone for a rented house.

For my limited use AT&T charges $100 per year for very good coverage. After a year, AT&T rolls over unused minutes, so I now have so many saved-up minutes that I'm looking for new friends to call.

I bought a cellphone through Swappa.com (which posts for-sale listings from owners). I got an enviable deal on a Samsung S5 from a guy who threw in extra memory, a case, a window protector and other accessories.


Posted by:

Bob
21 Apr 2017

I went to Walmart a few weeks ago to purchase a new phone. Finally getting rid of my flip phone. Yes I
replied and she showed me a LG smart phone for $29.95. She offered me a unlimited Verizon plan for $29.95 a month ! How could I resist !!


Posted by:

Bob
25 Apr 2017

I'm 65 and have never had a "smart phone" the whole phone issue is confusing. I love Bob's articles, but does anyone know of a one stop web site that covers and explains phones and plans? Thanks in advance.


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